©2009 Professional Organizer -
Lea Schneider is the author of
A Mom to Mom Guide available at
one-on-one organizing advice via phone and email through Organize Online
division at her company website,
Organize Right Now.
Her advice is featured
here at What's Cooking America in a monthly column. You may have read her
expert organizing ideas in Woman’s Day, Natural Health, College News, and
Better Homes and Gardens Kids’ Rooms magazines and newspapers. She is a member of the National Association of Professional
Organizers and the Association of Food Journalists.
Organize Right Now LLC
Member National Association of Professional Organizers
Organize Right Now
As sure as
the fact that summer brings heat, it also brings family
kids being out-of-school, summer is the prefect time for family
gatherings, both big and small. No matter how many people are
going to attend, from 25 to 400, food is always a main activity
food for a family reunion can be a bit daunting. If you’ve drawn
that job for your get-together, as I did for my family’s
gathering, you’ll find that being organized can make the job
much easier. Here are some steps to walk you through that
Begin your meal planning by checking on the location and
the time. The time of day will dictate how many meals are
needed. The location will dictate what kinds of meals are
appropriate for the cooking/serving facilities that are
Don’t be afraid to include others in your planning. A large
committee can be unwieldy and more difficult than doing the work
alone but a small group can be very helpful. Consider asking
people of different age groups. The twenty-something’s, fifty
year-olds, and senior citizens will all have different ideas for
what their peers would enjoy making and eating. You’ll come to a
better consensus to include everyone.
Meal Planning Ideas:
Below, you’ll find several different approaches to serving meals
to your family. No matter which you choose, there are some key
elements in common:
Set a deadline to have your meals organized and planned.
Assign family members to do shopping, setting-up, cooking
Decide who will pay for what and how much the cost will be.
Make sure someone is in charge of the necessary non-edible
items from propane to charcoal, grilling tools, paper goods,
ice, cups and utensils.
Decide how to plan beverages. Will this be no-alcohol,
chip-in for drinks or B.Y.O.B?
Be sure to plan for snacks. Even with planned meals,
children and others will need a nibble. Perhaps you can assign a
family to stock a snack table so that everyone doesn’t get into
the dinner foods before dinner.
Plan a way to communicate before the reunion. Send a
newsletter or postcard about the meals, beverages, needs and
costs. Or, create a web page or send out an email to everyone
attending. You don’t want anyone surprised by the cost nor do
you not want to have food because someone didn’t get the message
about what to bring.
Be sure to make a time at the reunion to thank the
organizers and the cooks. It is hard, but fun work, and they
should be recognized.
Strictly Potluck -
You can go with a true potluck – everyone brings what they want
and no one is assigned anything. Or, you can assign people main
dishes, salads, sides and desserts. One fun potluck theme is to
have each person bring a dish that reminds them of their
childhood. Have the recipes emailed to you to print out and
create a recipe book as a reunion favor.
One of the most expensive items of a reunion is the meat. You
might have a potluck for the side items and dessert but ask each
person to bring their own meat for the grill. Have grills ready
to go and the grilling utensils. It creates a lot of
conversation as everyone compares what they brought and how it
Create Food Stations - Everyone loves a buffet. Assign various family’s coming to the
reunion different themes. Have each decorate and set up a table
for their theme- from Mexican to Italian to Salad Bar to
Sandwich Heaven. This provides a wide variety of food to sample.
It’s fun and sure to please everyone’s palette.
Bring your own picnic. Make planning really simply by asking
each family to bring a picnic supper. Supply the paper goods and
perhaps a reunion cake for everyone to join in on together.
Go Camping: -Take everyone back to their childhood by cooking over the
campfire. Hotdogs on sticks, campfire stew, and
S'mores are loved
by everyone. Ask people to bring ingredients or have everyone
chip in to pay for it.
Arrange for a catered picnic or meal. Or, find a person with a
rolling barbeque grill to come and prepare dinner for everyone.
This way, all the work is done by the caterer. Summer weekends
get booked fast. The challenge is to find someone free for your
event at a price you can afford so don’t procrastinate.
Packing for the Reunion:
When gathering your items for the family reunion, pack in
your reusable grocery totes.
When packing snacks or for several
meals, use one bag for each. Clip any recipes to the bag.
This way, you can leave everything
in the car except for the bag you need at that time.
If you need to take a recipe with you, pack it with the bag
of supplies. Be sure to check off the recipe ingredients.
Milk crates, also called file crates, are great for
carrying heavy items such as jugs of tea or juice to keep them
from spilling and breaking.
Be sure to cushion glass bottles between plastic ones to prevent
them from banging together and breaking.
Pack a day or two before, giving you time to add forgotten
items to the pile as needed.
Start a packing list for last-minute items such as the
freezer and fridge foods that need to go in the cooler.
Keep a running packing list. Add to it as
needed so that you don't head off and leave the meat in
the freezer. A clipboard is a great way to keep your
directiions and reunion notes in one spot.
It never hurts to grab a bag of the basics - plastic wrap,
foil, paper towels, hand soap and wet wipes. They are sure to
come in handy.